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Do you know beans about chili? Richard Pena | Sat, Apr 28 2012 12:00 PM

To paraphrase the poet "in the spring a young man's fancy turns to love." The poet should have, of course, also added that he should give that someone something with which to seal that love. In Bonita what could that be?  If it is along this time of year how about a bowl of chili?

The Bonita Business and Professional Association, the nearest unit that the community has that represents a quasi-government entity has put together two events that highlight the year. The first of these is the Bonitafest that comes around in early Autumn. This affair has been around since 1972. The other is the Chili Cookoff which is relatively new. But in the 13 years that it has been around it has grown to where its popularity can equal other such events in the county. Hence, the young man hasn’t far to go.  In two days, on Sunday April 29 the Chula Vista municipal golf course parking lot will be, in addition to chili booths, one mass of many other attractions for those of all ages.

Two long time members of the BBPA, Pat Dolan and Randy Bellamy are the co-chairmen for the affair this year.  I am told that there will be many attractions for kids, rides, paintings, clowns and other such things.  This is in addition to those things to eat, booths with an assortment of goodies up to and including ice cream. The latter is, obviously, on hand to equalize the heat from the chili dishes.

The principal attractions, and right that it should be, are the chili booths. As of this writing, there were 19 units of chili makers who will be on hand to be judged and to sate the appetite of those with partaking palates. 
Judging by the offerings of previous years those dishes will range from the benign mild taste to the mouth-burning variety, that type which exemplifies the true meaning of the culinary submission.

I don’t think I could write, or, for that matter, speak about chili without bringing up the debate of beans in or out of the dish.

The no beans unit is the native Texan who will defend this stand as if it were another Alamo. And then there is the New Mexico clique who say the dish is not complete without beans.  And those two units will dismiss chili from somewhere else as a cross between a can of Dennisons and Campbells.

Having lived in California longer than I had ever lived in Texas my views on many things have wavered from time to time.

I used to be a better-than average chili maker and I, of course, shunned beans. This was  simply because that was the way I was raised. If, however,  I am asked to a chili feast at someone’s home I sure am not going to be crass enough to discard the beans prior to eating. That also was the way I was raised.   Goodness knows, invitations nowadays are hard to come by.

Diane Kennedy, the foremost authority on Mexican cuisine was once asked if one could put chicken in enchiladas. She replied of course you can. But you better call it something else because it is no longer enchiladas.  In the case of the purist Texan he would probably say, “Go ahead and add your beans.  But you better call it something else.  It is no longer chili.”

I recall once visiting a Texas cousin who had moved to Tucson.  One evening he served us a huge pot of “genuine home-made chili.”  “Beans?” I asked him.  “Of course not.  No self respecting Texan would put beans in chili”.  He then proceeded to serve the bowls, one huge ladle of chili topped by another ladle of pinto beans. That took care of one purist.

With 19 offerings of chili on Sunday you are bound to get both kinds.

Take whatever you are given.  Like I said, invitations are hard to come by.

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